Mistakes costly in SLU loss to UCA in Southland opener
HAMMOND, La. – No. 17/18 Central Arkansas took advantage of Southeastern Louisiana’s three turnovers and 16 penalties on the way to a 33-25 victory over the Lions in the Southland Conference football opener for both teams Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions (0-3, 0-1 Southland) trailed just 13-10 at the half, but the defending conference champion Bears (2-1, 1-0 Southland) scored the first 14 points of the third quarter. A 61-yard pass from sophomore Breylin Smith to sophomore Brandon Myers on the fourth-quarter’s first play put UCA back up, 33-17, and the Lions were stuck playing catch up the rest of the way.
Midway through the fourth quarter, a quick thunderstorm passed through, but lightning in the area forced a delay of one hour and 17 minutes.
Smith tossed four touchdowns to lead a Bear offensive attack that finished with 443 total yards. His top target was Myers, who finished with 170 yards on four catches.
SLU junior Chason Virgil threw for 384 yards – the 10th-highest single-game total in school history – on 26-for-51 passing, as SLU finished with 496 total yards. Senior Darren Johnson and sophomore Marcus Cooper each scored rushing touchdowns for the Lions, while juniors Juwan Petit-Frere (four catches, 110 yards) and Bransen Schwebel (four catches, 74 yards, 1 TD) were the top receivers for the Lions.
“They made explosive plays tonight and we didn’t,” Southeastern head football coach Frank Scelfo said. “That and our turnovers we made – without forcing any – were the differences in the game. When you make those type of mistakes anybody it’s hard to come out on top, but when you make those mistakes against a good football team against UCA, you’re not going to win.”
Senior Tamarcus Russell led SLU with eight tackles, but was ejected in the second quarter for targeting. Junior punter Ivy Wall had his best day as a Lion, averaging 50.6 yards per punt.
Southeastern struck first on the game’s opening drive, marching 11 plays on 75 yards to take a 7-0 lead. Johnson powered in from two yards out to give the Lions the advantage with 11:00 left in the opening quarter.
UCA took control in the second quarter, as Smith hooked up with Myers (43 yards) and senior Cedric Battle (40 yards) on long scoring pass plays. The Lions were able to cut the gap to 13-10 on a 41-yard field goal by senior Jonathan Tatum on the final play of the second quarter.
The Bears opened the second half with a six-play, 84-yard drive to extend the lead. Junior Carlos Blackman raced around left end for a six-yard touchdown sweep and a 20-10 Bear advantage.
On the ensuing play, Johnson fumbled the handoff from Virgil and UCA junior Chris Terrell pounced on the loose ball to give the Bears possession at the Lion 25-yard line. Three plays later, Smith found senior Jakari Dillard on a 15-yard scoring strike and a commanding 27-10 advantage with 11:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Southeastern gained some momentum late in the third quarter with a nine-play, 52-yard scoring march. Cooper leapt in from two yards out to cut the Bear advantage to 27-17 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
UCA regained control two plays later. On the first play of the final period, Smith took advantage of a busted coverage and found Myers for a 61-yard touchdown and a 33-17 Bear advantage.
On the next Southeastern trip, the Lions moved deep into Bears territory, but Central Arkansas junior Trai Mosley intercepted Virgil at the seven-yard line to end the Southeastern threat.
After the two teams traded punts, a thunderstorm rolled through and stayed in the general area long enough for the extended weather delay.
UCA had the ball in the Southeastern red zone when the weather delay ended and moved all the way to the Lion one-yard line. SLU came up with a goal line stand to take over with under four minutes left.
A 68-yard strike from Virgil to Petit-Frere highlighted a 10-play, 99-yard drive for SLU. Schwebel hauled in an 11-yard scoring pass from Virgil, then caught the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 33-25 with 1:24 remaining.
Southeastern recovered the onside kick, but it didn’t go 10 yards. UCA managed one first down and was able to run the clock out to secure its fourth straight victory over the Lions.
Southeastern will open its 2018 Southland road schedule next Saturday with a 6 p.m. contest at Lamar in Beaumont, Texas. The SLU-Lamar game will be televised on ESPN3 and via the WatchESPN.com app. The game can also be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and WFPR 1400 AM). Fans can also listen live at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Radio FX and TuneIn Radio apps.
UCA – 0 13 14 6 – 33 (2-1, 1-0 SLC)
SLU – 7 3 7 8 – 25 (0-3, 0-1 SLC)
SLU – D. Johnson 2 run (Tatum kick), 11:00
UCA – Myers 43 pass from B. Smith (Siler pass failed), 9:49
UCA – Battle 40 pass from B. Smith (Cummins kick), 0:49
SLU – Tatum 41 FG, 0:00
UCA – Blackman 6 run (Cummins kick), 2:38
UCA – Dillard 15 pass from B. Smith (Cummins kick), 11:10
SLU – Cooper 2 run (Tatum kick), 0:12
UCA – Myers 43 pass from B. Smith (Cummins kick failed), 14:49
SLU – Schwebel 11 pass from Virgil (Schwebel pass from Virgil), 1:24
Team Statistics UCA SLU
FIRST DOWNS 16 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 35-114 36-112
PASSING YDS (NET) 329 384
Passes Att-Comp-Int 31-22-0 51-26-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 66-443 87-496
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 3-63 2-42
Punt Returns-Yards 1-0 4-36
Interception Returns-Yards 1-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 8-39.2 6-50.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 4-34 16-140 Possession Time. 31:01 28:59
Third-Down Conversions 4-of-14 6-of-17
Fourth-Down Conversions 0-of-2 2-of-5
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-3 3-3
RUSHING: UCA – Blackman 13-70, Battle 4-18, Crossley 10-17, B. Smith 5-14, D. Smith 1-0, Team 2-(-5). Totals – 35-114. SLU – Virgil 10-53, D. Johnson 12-28, Petit-Frere 1-14, Cooper 8-8, Ingraffia 1-5, Nunez 2-5, D. Williams 1-(-1). Totals – 36-112.
PASSING: UCA – B. Smith 22-31-0-329-4. Totals – 22-31-0-329-4. SLU – Virgil 26-51-1-384-1. Totals – 26-51-1-384-1.
RECEIVING: UCA – Wells 10-37, Myers 4-170, D. Smith 3-9, Dillard 2-26, Hampton 1-42, Battle 1-40, Winningham 1-5. Totals – 22-329. SLU – Petit-Frere 4-110, Schwebel 4-74, Cooper 4-17, Turner 3-56, Ingraffia 3-52, D. Johnson 3-17, Nunez 1-15, Jackson 1-13, Mitchell 1-11, M. Williams 1-10, Tolbert 1-9. Totals – .
A – 6,485.
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